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Grand Tour of...
 

Grand Tour of Ireland

14 days |  17 days with Glasgow & Edinburgh extension
14 days |  17 days with Glasgow & Edinburgh extension
Group size1538 travelers
Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

531
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Get to the heart of Irish culture on this sweeping survey of the Emerald Isle.

Beyond the sheep-dotted landscapes and cliff-carved coasts that are its calling card, the island of Ireland comprises dynamic cities, cute villages, and a certain charm you won’t find anywhere else. From the Ring of Kerry in the south to Derry in neighboring Northern Ireland, you’ll get a proper look at life in the region. And after two weeks of exploring, you’ll leave feeling like a local (if you can even bear to leave at all). Should you choose to stay a little longer, Scotland awaits on this trip’s extension, showcasing another side of Celtic culture that’s just as captivating.

Your tour package includes

  • 12 nights in handpicked hotels
  • 12 breakfasts
  • 1 lunch
  • 4 dinners with beer or wine
  • 12 sightseeing tours
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Included highlights

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Glendalough
  • Kilkenny Castle
  • House of Waterford factory tour
  • Cobh Heritage Centre
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Start planning today

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Day-by-day itinerary

Print itinerary
Overnight Flight1 night
Day 1: Travel day

Board your overnight flight to Dublin today.

Dublin2 nights
Day 2: Arrival in Dublin
Included meal: Welcome dinner

Welcome to Ireland! Meet your Tour Director and fellow travelers at tonight’s welcome dinner and get familiar with the concept of craic—the lively, fun banter you’ll encounter across Ireland.

Day 3: Sightseeing tour of Dublin
Included meal: Breakfast

Settled by the Gaels and disputed over centuries by the Vikings and Anglo-Normans, Dublin traces its history back more than 1,300 years. Today, you’ll peel back some of its layers on a comprehensive tour, led by a local expert.

  • Stop in Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed public park in any European capital city. First established as a royal hunting ground by government decree in 1662, this 1,750-acre greenspace today houses the country’s presidential residence.
  • Pass by St. James’s Gate Brewery, the legendary 260-year-old brewery behind Guinness dry stout. More than 50 million barrels ship out of the plant each year, making it the world’s most prolific producer of stout-style beers.
  • Drive through Old Dublin, then step into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the country’s largest church. Founded in 1191, it serves as the national cathedral for the Church of Ireland, and its arresting Gothic architecture befits a building of its stature.
  • Traverse Dublin’s city center, passing 17th-century St. Stephen’s Green as you go. Afterward, take some time to admire the Georgian architecture of Merrion Square. Another gardened area in the heart of Dublin, it’s been called home by some of Ireland’s foremost writers—Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats among them.
  • See the dignified facade of Trinity College—Ireland’s oldest university—and embark on a walking tour of its hallowed grounds.

For a walk down Dublin’s (even more) festive side, spend your afternoon strolling Grafton Street or the Temple Bar. The former is the city’s primary shopping boulevard; the latter, its buzzy bar district. Alternatively, wrap yourself in shades of emerald by tacking on an optional excursion to the immaculate gardens of Powerscourt Estate. 

Powerscourt Estate & Gardens

From $59 per person

Waterford2 nights
Day 4: Waterford via Glendalough & Kilkenny
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Leave Dublin and traverse County Wicklow, marveling at some of Ireland’s wildest scenery as you go. Enter Wicklow Mountains National Park—one of six such preserves in the country—and make your way to the Glendalough Visitor Centre. After getting situated, explore the ancient abbey: Cradled in a glacial valley, this sixth-century monastery was founded by the hermit Saint Kevin and contains ruins like the Round Tower, the Gateway, and St. Kevin’s Cross.

From there, you’ll cross into County Kilkenny and stop at its namesake settlement. Briefly the capital of Ireland in the 17th century, Kilkenny lays claim to the country’s best-preserved medieval town, put on full display along the Medieval Mile—a stretch that connects Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral.

Built along the River Nore in 1260 and restored more than 700 years later, the imposing Kilkenny Castle welcomes more than one million visitors inside its walls annually. Count yourself among that number today as you roam the fortress and its gardens, then pass by the Gothic St. Canice’s Cathedral before heading to Waterford.

Once you arrive in town, you and your groupmates will sit down for an included dinner, served with beer or wine, before ending your day.

Please note: Between November and February, the sightseeing tour of Kilkenny may take place on day 5 due to the closure of some attractions.

Day 5: Sightseeing tour of Waterford & the Rock of Cashel
Included meal: Breakfast

Ireland’s oldest city is neither Dublin nor Cork—that honor belongs to Waterford, a former Viking settlement established in the ninth century. Today, a local guide will introduce you to its rich history by way of its most famous sites and exports.

  • Walk through the Viking Triangle, a cultural district encircled by the remains of 1,000-year-old walls.
  • Pass Reginald’s Tower, the oldest civic building in the country and the lynchpin of Waterford’s medieval defenses. Outside, you’ll glimpse another pair of local icons: the Vadrafjordr, a replica Viking longship, and the Dragon Slayer Sword, a hulking, 75-foot wooden sword with hand-carved panels depicting Viking history in the area.
  • See the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, the oldest post-reformation Roman Catholic cathedral in Ireland, before visiting the House of Waterford. You may not have heard of this famed glassworks by name, but you’ve almost certainly seen its work: Waterford crystals adorn the ball that drops over Times Square every New Year’s Eve.

Cap your day by venturing into County Tipperary for a tour of the iconic Rock of Cashel. Home to more than 1,000 years of history, this 360-foot-tall outcrop guards a collection of Celtic, Christian, and Viking ruins and is one of Ireland’s premier attractions.

Please note: Between November and February, the sightseeing tour of Waterford may take place on day 4 due to the closure of some attractions.

County Kerry2 nights
Day 6: County Kerry via Cobh & Blarney Castle
Included meal: Breakfast

From Waterford, head southwest to Cobh, a seaport town of roughly 14,000 on the other side of massive Cork Harbor. Here, you’ll enter the Cobh Heritage Centre: Learn about Irish life, emigration, and maritime tradition over the centuries. (Did you know that Cobh was the Titanic’s final port of call before its doomed maiden voyage?)

Then, skirt around the city of Cork to one of Ireland’s most famous tourist sites. First erected in 1210, then rebuilt in 1446 as a stronghold of the local MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty, Blarney Castle lays claim to one legendary item: the Blarney Stone. Originally added as a defensive structure, this slab of limestone supposedly grants all who kiss it “the gift of gab.” Stretch out over the parapet and give it a smooch—then let us know how you feel!

Day 7: The Ring of Kerry & Killarney National Park
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Set out for a drive along the Ring of Kerry, a 112-mile coastal route that winds around the Iveragh Peninsula and covers some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery. Expect your breath to catch with every rugged mile of coastal vistas and windswept beaches.

  • Pass the pristine Lakes of Killarney in Killarney National Park and gaze across Dingle Bay. On a clear day, the lakes’ mirror-like surfaces reflect the surrounding forests and hills.
  • Don’t blink! You won’t want to miss the ever-changing views, cycling between mountains, beaches, and the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Explore the quaint villages that line the route—places like Sneem, the “knot in the ring” replete with candy-colored storefronts. (Why the interesting nickname? Sneem’s Irish name, An tSnaidhm, directly translates to “the knot.”)

Sit down for an included dinner this evening, then prep for tomorrow’s journey to County Galway.

County Galway2 nights
Day 8: County Galway via County Clare
Included meal: Breakfast

Board your bus and roll north to the beautiful, lake-dotted expanse of County Galway. Before arriving in Galway proper, stop to enjoy some of the best views on the Emerald Isle.

  • Redefine “taking the scenic route” with a quick detour into County Clare and a walk along the mesmerizing Cliffs of Moher. Sheer cliffs stretching into the distance, crashing waves below—you know this one.
  • Drive on through the Burren. Distinct from the lush greens that typify the rest of the Irish landscape, greys dominate this limestone plateau, punctuated by bursts of wildflowers. Botanists will surely delight in this journey: More than 70% of Ireland’s flower species grow here.

Arrive in Galway, then let your Tour Director take the lead on a walking tour of the city’s highlights.

  • Stroll past a trio of Galwegian icons: Lynch’s Castle, a castle-turned-bank that dates to the 16th century; the rustic home of “Ireland's most prestigious” troupe, the Druid Theatre Company; and John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, a popular green space better known to locals (and the world) as Eyre Square.
  • Get a grasp of Galway’s Norman history by viewing its medieval walls—12th-century fortifications that once encircled the city—and the Spanish Arch. First erected in 1584 as an extension of Galway’s protective walls, its name alludes to the Spaniards who moored their ships and lived in the area.
  • Peruse authentic Claddagh (said “CLA-da”) rings in a local shop. Steeped in legend and symbolism, these pieces of jewelry have been produced in their current guise—two hands clasping a crowned heart—since at least 1700 and are inextricably linked to Galway.

How will you fill your evening? If you add it to your itinerary, you’ll dig into a traditional dinner, served with a rousing step dance show.

Please note: On some departures, the Traditional Irish Music & Dance Show with Dinner excursion will be offered on day 9.

Traditional Irish Music & Dance Show with Dinner

From $109 per person

Day 9: Free day in Galway
Included meal: Breakfast

Up next: a full day in Galway, all to yourself. Early risers should head for the Long Walk, a not-so-long row of color-blocked houses just past the Spanish Arch. Their seaside location and vibrant aesthetics make for a great photo op—especially at sunrise.

Then, enjoy the freedom of an unstructured schedule, or build out your day with an optional excursion. For architecture and vistas plucked out of a fantasy novel, you’ll want to take up our visit to Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park. Keep your cameras handy: You might catch some of the latter’s famous ponies trotting about.

Kylemore Abbey & Connemara National Park

From $89 per person

Sligo1 night
Day 10: Sligo via Glen Keen Farm
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Back on your bus, drive up through western Ireland and make a stop at the Glen Keen Farm, one of the nation’s largest working sheep farms. You’ll learn about tending sheep during an interactive herding demonstration before sitting down for a traditional lunch—complete with dessert, coffee, tea, and the serenity of County Mayo’s countryside.

Then, continue to the coastal town of Sligo, where you’ll spend the night before rolling on to Northern Ireland.

Please note: Vegetarian options are available for the included lunch.

Belfast3 nights
Day 11: Belfast via Derry
Included meal: Breakfast

Bid the Republic of Ireland slán go fóill (“goodbye for now” in English) at the hypnotizing Glencar Waterfall, whose wooded surroundings and tiered cascade inspired the poetry of Nobel Prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats.

After, cross the border into Northern Ireland—a separate nation and a constituent country of the U.K.—and stop in Derry for a quick guided tour. As you go, you’ll see its 17th-century walls; more importantly, you’ll get a primer on the long history of tension between Derry’s Protestant and Catholic residents, something that has impacted the city for hundreds of years.

Day 12: Sightseeing tour of Belfast
Included meal: Breakfast

Northern Ireland’s largest city, seafaring Belfast possesses a long, proud history—one that you’ll dip into today. With help from a local guide, take a tour and get to know the Northern Irish capital from a unique perspective.

  • Glimpse the patinated domes and sculpted walls of Belfast’s City Hall, where local leaders have met since the beginning of the 20th century. Then, move on to the Grand Opera House. Completely restored in the early 2020s, the almost 130-year-old building still hosts an assortment of performances, from ballet to comedy.
  • Walk Belfast’s streets and let your guide educate you on the city’s past. Learn about everything from its Bronze Age origins and rise as an international seaport to its role in the vicious sectarian conflict known around the world as “the Troubles.”
  • Enter the Titanic Belfast museum. The infamous vessel was built in the city’s shipyards by local manufacturers Harland & Wolff, and this exhibit highlights its history, from hopeful conception to tragic sinking.

To see a bit more of the Northern Irish countryside (and sip a spot of tea), add this afternoon’s excursion to Hillsborough Castle. If you’d rather enjoy some alone time, pop into St. George’s Market—the last surviving covered Victorian market in the city—and browse the wares of more than 300 vendors.

Castles of Northern Ireland & Afternoon Tea

From $129 per person

Day 13: Free day in Belfast
Included meals: Breakfast, Farewell dinner

Catch a glimpse of geometric perfection today by adding an outing to the Giant’s Causeway. Stepping down into the sea, this UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the supposed remnants of an encounter between two mythical giants.

Or, choose to spend the day how you like. Pushing up against the edge of the Queen’s University Belfast campus, the 19th-century Botanic Gardens boast a glass conservatory, an open-air rosarium, a museum, and more. You could roam its elegant paths for hours!

This evening, celebrate your trip with your group at a farewell dinner, served with beer or wine.

Giant’s Causeway

From $95 per person

Flight Home
Day 14: Departure
Included meal: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Transfer to the airport or trade a flight home for a ferry to Scotland by booking this tour’s extension. Glasgow, Edinburgh, and more wait in the wings—with so much so close by, why wouldn’t you dive deeper into Celtic culture?

Extension to Glasgow & Edinburgh
The Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh illustrate two sides of the country they call home—the former its bohemian heart, and the latter its regal pedigree. Your Tour Director will guide you through both with a local’s eye, relaying the stories behind their landmarks and sharing recommendations for your free time. And don’t forget your medieval history, courtesy of a visit to Stirling Castle.
Glasgow1 night
Day 14: Ferry to Glasgow & sightseeing tour
Included meal: Breakfast

Board a ferry in Belfast and cross the Irish Sea, docking in Cairnryan, Scotland—a hamlet of just 142 residents on the shores of Loch Ryan.

Then, continue to Glasgow and set off on a sightseeing tour of “the Dear Green Place” (a sobriquet drawn from the direct translation of the city’s Gaelic name) with a local as your guide.

  • Walk around 18th-century George Square, admiring the craftsmanship of the adjacent City Chambers and the various statues erected around the city’s main public plaza. From there, head south through the posh Merchant City district to the banks of the Clyde, Scotland’s second-longest river.
  • Admire the buildings of the University of Glasgow: Founded in 1451, it’s the fourth-oldest in the English-speaking world and one of four Renaissance universities still operating in Scotland today.
  • Stop outside the city’s medieval cathedral—the oldest cathedral on the Scottish mainland and the oldest building in all of Glasgow—for photos of its Gothic spires and facades.
  • Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Opened in 1870 as Glasgow’s first municipal museum, it features substantial exhibitions of everything from European portraiture to Egyptian antiquities.

After your tour, settle into your hotel and get some rest. Tomorrow, you’ll be heading to Edinburgh!

Edinburgh2 nights
Day 15: Edinburgh via Stirling Castle
Included meal: Breakfast

En route to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, detour northeast through picturesque countryside to visit Stirling Castle. A fixture in the Wars of Scottish Independence, this 12th-century fortress saw the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots, and still stands proudly atop its rocky perch.

After touring the castle, continue to Edinburgh. For a little levity, add tonight’s excursion and jump into a cèilidh. (Pronounce the name of this traditional party “KAY-lee”). If you’d rather slow things down, take to the streets and find dinner on your own time.

Scottish Cèilidh

From $129 per person

Day 16: Sightseeing tour of Edinburgh
Included meal: Breakfast

Nestled between the rivers Almond and Esk, Edinburgh emerges from a series of hills and rocky ridges, earning its nickname “the Athens of the North.” Get to know the city in all its medieval beauty on a tour led by a local expert.

  • View neoclassical and Georgian architecture in the New Town. The ornate sandstone and granite structures surrounding oasis-like gardens and green spaces became a model for European urban planning.
  • Contrast the New Town’s grace with the Old Town’s rustic Royal Mile, which runs between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse—the official residence of British monarchs in Scotland. Here, you’ll cross moody, narrow streets and alleys, known as “closes,” flanked by brooding stone buildings and timeworn cathedrals.
  • Pass the towering Sir Walter Scott monument—paying homage to the Ivanhoe and Rob Roy scribe—one of the largest sculptural tributes to an author in the world.
  • Ascend Castle Rock and enter Edinburgh Castle. Standing on an extinct volcano at the top of the Royal Mile, it houses the Scottish crown jewels and Stone of Scone—a block of sandstone that has played a central role in coronation ceremonies for centuries.

Looking to be swept away by the wild romance of the Scottish Borders region? Add an outing to your itinerary and join fellow literature lovers for a quest to the home of Sir Walter Scott and the Gothic ruins of Melrose Abbey.

Prefer to see more of Edinburgh? Use your free afternoon in the city to go back and wander the winding streets of the Old Town. If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps consider a spooky stroll through the tunnels that weave underneath the city. Of course, there’s always tucking into a booth in a cozy cafe and lingering over tea and shortbread.

Please note: The order of today’s activities is subject to change.

Abbotsford House & Melrose Abbey

From $109 per person

Flight Home
Day 17: Departure
Included meal: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Transfer to the airport to board your flight home.

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Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Overall rating 4.6 out of 5

Based on 531 authentic traveler reviews
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    5 out of 5 stars

    Ireland 2024
    6/1/24 by 1st-time traveler Brenda

    Covered a lot of ground in 2 weeks. Excellent tour guide (Jacqui) and coordinator Vicki. Great meals. Wish more dinners were included. Everything went pretty well except the flight home.

    5 out of 5 stars

    I loved this trip to Ireland!
    6/18/24 by 1st-time traveler Kathy

    I started dreaming of going to Ireland in the 1980’s. However, life took over and I was unable to go. I finally got to visit my dream country this year ( Ireland) with EF Go Tours and I’m so happy it finally happened! We saw everything possible to see in this beautiful country. The tour leader was ...

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    EF Go Ahead Tours replied on 7/9/24

    Hi Kathy. Thank you for your kind review and beaut...

    Read more +

    5 out of 5 stars

    6/14/24 by 3rd-time traveler Todd
    Show more reviews

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    Hotels, flights & FAQ

    Here's the nitty-gritty—where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, and what to know about your destination before you go.

    Hotels

    We handpick every hotel to strike the balance of comfort, location, and local charm. Specific accommodations will vary based on your departure date, but these are frequently used hotels for this tour and we're confident you'll be satisfied.
    Cassidys Hotel
    Cassidys Hotel

    This boutique hotel is located in Dublin’s city center. Guests enjoy the bistro, a gym, and the hotel bar. Nearby, you’ll find EPIC The Irish Emigrati...

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    Dooley’s Hotel Waterford
    Dooley’s Hotel Waterford

    This family-run hotel is located in the heart of Waterford. Guests enjoy spacious rooms, live music, and hearty Irish breakfasts. Nearby, you’ll find ...

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    Meadowlands Hotel
    Meadowlands Hotel

    This elegant hotel is located in Tralee, County Kerry, along the Wild Atlantic Way. Guests enjoy the manicured gardens and an intimate second-floor ba...

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    Maldron Sandy Road
    Maldron Sandy Road

    This comfortable hotel is located near the center of Galway. Guests enjoy free Wi-Fi, a hotel bar, and a restaurant. Nearby, you’ll find the Galway Sh...

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    Glasshouse Hotel
    Glasshouse Hotel

    This modern hotel is located in central Sligo. Guests enjoy a restaurant, fitness center, and two bars. Nearby, you’ll find The Model, the Yeats Memor...

    Read more +
    Crowne Plaza Belfast
    Crowne Plaza Belfast

    This refined hotel is located in Belfast’s Lagan Valley Regional Park. Guests enjoy the indoor pool, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant. Near...

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    Maldron Hotel Glasgow City
    Maldron Hotel Glasgow City

    This hotel is located in Glasgow. Guests enjoy a fitness center, bar, and locally sourced meals. Nearby, you’ll find Glasgow Cathedral, the Kelvingrov...

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    Mercure Edinburgh Haymarket
    Mercure Edinburgh Haymarket

    This modern hotel is located in Edinburgh’s West End. Guests enjoy the fitness center, a bar, and stylish rooms. Nearby, you’ll find Edinburgh Castle,...

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    Flights

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    • Flexible rebooking options if your tour itinerary changes
    • Find out more about flights

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